LABS Maneuver Revisited

An experienced navigator gets a second try in surviving a 4g pullout.
Lyndon Mitchell

 

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Around 1967, I was a most experienced backseater in the B-57 in the Vietnam War. As such, I frequently had the opportunity to fly with old pilots who had otherwise distinguished themselves. Probably because I had the smarts to eject if we got in trouble.

On one occasion, I was asked to fly with an older and wiser pilot of [whose] credentials I knew nothing and cared little....I was just doing my thing so he could do his thing!

We got along well and established great rapport during the flight. He asked me if I knew anything about the LABS Maneuver... (Low Altitude Bombing System) I said that I had heard of it, [had]discussed it, but knew little else about it.

We were airborne over the Philippines and doing "his training thing". He asked if I would be willing to participate and I agreed.

For those that don't know, we had no g-suits and what went on regarding the pilot and the backseater and the aircraft and gravitational forces was dependent totally upon mutual agreement and forced grunting.

I am sure that every aviator remembers, well, many things for the rest of their life; first takeoff, first landing, first time being shot at and missed, first time experiencing vertigo, first time not knowing a thing about what's happening.

We descended to the north and east of Clark AB and built the airspeed up to as fast as I had ever seen it in my considerable experience. Then he pulled back on the stick and did a perfect 4G loop as agreed.

I was way behind the power curve, this being a training mission with an old pilot. I recall watching the altimeter, then only the number 4 on the altimeter; then, when the blood came back, the situational awareness of my experience happened and I asked him to do it again so I could remember it forever.

And we did it again and I do believe to this moment it would have worked [in combat].

Lyndon Mitchell

(Ed Note: B-57's in Japan were configured and ready to use the LABS maneuver. They were never called on to do so. The aircraft were sent to Vietnam where disconnected nuclear weapons bomb panels were still part of the front cockpit.)

Comment from Bob Galbreath

"During my tour with the 13th (12/64 - 03/66), while back at Clark AB, on our breaks from Vietnam, we not only practiced the LABS maneuver but actually prepared for nuc weapon missions to China.

Ever since China has opened up, I have thought about visiting my old target which was an airfield in Guizhou Province in southern China. Our flight plan had us recovering in Taiwan with 1500 pounds of fuel in the tanks. Some guys had targets further into China and were supposed to "recover" by ditching in the South China Sea!"

 

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